42. Documentary Photography
Students consider the function of social-documentary photography. They will research Dorothea Lange’s documentary projects, and create their own photo essay about a subject of interest to them. Students will document an area of struggle in their life or take on a struggle to document within their community. We will watch this video on photojournalism and this video on Colorado Women Taking on Hunger and discuss the different types of documentary photography and what it is. Here are some tips on taking documentary photography.
• Students will discuss and analyze examples of social-documentary photographs by Dorothea Lange.
• Students will define “social documentary” and consider the function of social-documentary photography.
• Students will research one or more of Dorothea Lange’s social-documentary projects.
• Students will research a subject of importance or special interest to them (e.g., a community they know or are interested in knowing about, or a local or national event or a political or social issue they care about) and use interview techniques to develop their project.
• Students will create a photo essay about their subject that meets their definition of “social documentary.”
43. Social Documentary and Dorthea Lange – Due Wednesday before class is over
First we will look at the photographs below from Dorthea Lange and discuss those.
Research the term “social documentary” and draft a definition. Also research two related terms currently in use by artists, art historians, and art critics: “concerned photography” and “compassionate photography.” Write out your definition and explain. Also research on the Internet or in books three images by Lange that were part of social-documentary projects she undertook (for example, additional photographs she took while working for the Farm Security Administration). Include those three photographs and what you learned about her documentary photography. Title the post “Dorthea Lange Writing.”
44. Choose Topic – Due Thursday before class is over
Choose and research a topic of struggle in your life or take on a struggle to document within your community that will be the subject of their own social-documentary project, presented in the form of a photo essay (a series of related photographs focusing on a specific topic that is intended to be viewed collectively, often with captions).
The photo essay was popularized by Lange and other photographers during the 1930s. Photo essays by Lange were published in various magazines and reports from the 1930s to the 1960s. What is the difference between a photo essay and a single photograph about the same topic? What can a photo essay do that a single photograph cannot? Why is photography especially well suited for the essay format?
Students discuss topics for their photo essays and brainstorm ideas for how to visually express them. Students also brainstorm interview questions for individuals they may photograph as part of the project.
Write a one-page plan summarizing the key story they hope to tell in their photo essay and strategies for doing so, keeping in mind their definition of “social documentary.” Upload to your blog as your topic and include your one-page plan. Title the post “Documentary Photography Topic.”